BMW Team RLL Clinches ALMS GT Driver and Team Championships at Monterey

Monterey, CA – Sept. 18, 2011… A strong start to the season followed by consis­tent podium finishes throughout the midpoint of the year culmi­nated in the first Amer­ican Le Mans Series GT Driver cham­pi­onships for the No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT of Dirk Mϋller and Joey Hand, and the second consec­u­tive Team cham­pi­onship for BMW Team RLL. The Mϋller /Hand pairing clinched their first titles as team­mates with a grueling second-place finish in Saturday’s Amer­ican Le Mans Monterey race at Laguna Seca Raceway, marking BMW Team RLL’s eighth consec­u­tive podium finish in GT competition.

“A Drivers Cham­pi­onship – against this year’s compe­ti­tion — is fantastic,” said Joey Hand. “Dirk and I are a great team. We had a great showing from our Crowne Plaza and Avnet part­ners this weekend. It was great to win in front of them. The Dunlop tires were really strong all week. I am excited…that’s for sure!”

Starting from the pole, the duo completed 236 laps in the six-hour race around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca circuit in the hills of Monterey, Cali­fornia. The No. 55 BMW Team RLL M3 GT of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner finished in fifth place to main­tain their third-place posi­tion in the Driver point stand­ings. Following the race the third-place finishing Ferrari was penal­ized 90 seconds for avoid­able contact, moving Auberlen and Werner up to fourth.

Both BMW M3 GT cars were very strong in the opening hour of the race. Joey Hand used his pole posi­tion to build a 20-second lead by the end of the first hour. Hand main­tained his lead through the first round of pit stops, while stable­mate Bill Auberlen in the No. 55 M3 GT was able to push the No. 4 Corvette until his tires were damaged and subse­quently passed him to move into the second posi­tion. Auberlen’s effort would prove key as the Corvette was the only team that could keep BMW Team RLL from a second straight team title.

All through the six-hour contest, the top five GT Class competi­tors were within a few seconds of each other. Finally, at the top of the final hour, each competitor had completed their last pit stops and it was a sprint race to the finish. With 40 minutes remaining, Mϋller was in first posi­tion with a comfort­able lead over Auberlen in second, but a left tire punc­ture sent Auberlen to the pits for a new Dunlop tire, drop­ping him back to fifth.

Three minutes later, the fifth caution of the race tight­ened up the field again. After the restart with only eight minutes remaining, Dirk Mϋller dropped back to third during a heated battle with a Ferrari and a Porsche, but he moved up to second on the last lap when the second-placed Ferrari began to run out of fuel, opening the door for Mϋller to repass for the second-place podium finish.

“Fantastic! I am so happy for Joey, for the Cham­pi­onships, for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, for BMW, for Dunlop, and for all of our part­ners and supporters,” added Dirk Mϋller. This one means so very much to me. This year we felt it, we worked so hard and so well together. Thanks so much to everyone!”

“As we prepared for the 2011 season, we knew we had all of the ingre­di­ents to contend for the cham­pi­onship, but it takes a lot of effort from everyone involved to actu­ally make it happen,” said BMW Team RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Each one of our drivers gave us every­thing they had, BMW provided us with a great car and outstanding support from throughout their great orga­ni­za­tion and the crew both at the track and at the shop worked extremely hard to make this happen. We are happy to cele­brate these cham­pi­onships with our part­ners at Crowne Plaza, Avnet, Dunlop, Rays and everyone else involved with BMW Team RLL!”

The BMW Team RLL squad has one final order of busi­ness as it looks to clinch its second consec­u­tive ALMS GT Manu­fac­turer cham­pi­onship in the 2011 season finale. The final round of the Amer­ican Le Mans Series season is the chal­lenging 10-hour Petit Le Mans, which will be held on October 1 at Road Atlanta.